The US’s highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military’s position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith.
“From the United States’ military’s perspective, it is not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period,” said Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.
The US military has also confiscated Bibles that Christian US soldiers in Afghanistan had apparently intended to give to local Muslims, a military spokesman told Al Jazeera.
In addition, some of the soldiers who appeared in the video have also been reprimanded, US government and military officials told Al Jazeera’s James Bays.
The video, shot about a year ago, appeared to show military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country’s main Pashto and Dari languages.
In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, tells soldiers that, as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him”. “The special forces guys – they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down,” he says.
“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.”
Questioned about the footage, Greg Julian, a US colonel in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera: “Most of this is taken out of context … this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism.
“This footage was taken a year ago … the Bibles were taken into custody and not distributed.
“There is no effort to go out and proselytise to Afghans.”